3 Lessons Learned in 2019 from Customer Advisory Boards

My Nanny McFarland, after whom I named Farland Group, used to sit with me and play cards for hours on end. In hindsight, her patience at the age of 90 was inspiring. Even more amazing was her graceful way of winning against her competitive, young grandchildren and then showing us (in more detail than we wished at times) how our decisions led to the outcome. It is with Nanny McFarland’s lessons learned in mind that I share some of Farland Group’s learnings  from our 2019 Customer Advisory Board work.

Recruiting Matters

This year, Farland Group launched many new Customer Advisory Boards with our clients. We all know that recruiting the right client mix makes for a richer Board makeup but getting people to slow down and give the time to recruiting is difficult when the pressure to have a meeting begins to mount.

Recruiting is not a place to fail fast. Align on your key criteria and get the customer mix that you want so that your meetings bring maximum value to your organization and to the Board.

Purpose Prevails

Often, when asked to help our clients launch – or re-launch – their Customer Advisory Boards, we try to focus on the intent of the Board. What will the Board inform? What will change look like? Where will impact be experienced? It is challenging for businesses to step back and really focus on these questions and surface an intention for the Board that is sustaining.

Without this work, a Customer Advisory Board meeting can begin to morph from its intention to the loudest voice in the room. If that loudest voice is your customer, you will react to that voice instead of shaping their input in the context of your overall goals. Take time to focus on purpose and revisit it often to ensure your Board, and your Board members, are clear on intent, outcomes and overall purpose.

Action and Follow Through Drives Sustainability

The single reason that anything rises or falls is commitment and follow through. Whether you are building a relationship with customers, your spouse, your children or building a new home, we are measured by what we say we will do and whether we do it. Does that leave room for mistakes? Absolutely. But too often, companies stand up Customer Advisory Boards to drive a one-way sales intention, and not to drive a relationship built on shared value.

We have Customer Advisory Boards that have been running for more than 13 years, and the reason they still function and drive value for customers and our client is that both parties commit to a set of actions, and follow through on those actions.

We look forward to sharing many more lessons and tips in 2020.

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